Seattle, WA - Last season was a tough one for baseball in Seattle. Finishing with the worst record in franchise history (99 losses), Seattle fans had little hope for a quick turnaround. In a press conference, Lightning GM Greg Soulblazer gave some honest, although unusual, insight into the rebuilding effort that was well underway as the offseason came around. "We are working on a long term rebuilding plan. Yes, the team has been bad for a long time, but we have been working out various things, and trying to find what works best for this team. I believe that things are finally starting to come together".
"Basicaly, our plan calls for a young core of players to make an impact at the major league level in two seasons. This year, and next year, are holding years, in which we admit that the team may be pretty rotten, but trying out different players to see who might stay with the team and who should not. We've avoided signing long term contracts for that reason, along with nobody commanding big pay checks. So we've been spending the last few seasons drafting well and signing some international prospects, and they all should be in the bigs by year 18".
"We traded for a couple of players from Colorado this year in keeping with that spirit, to see what they can do for the team: Julio Johnson and Willy Bergeron. "
"Our free agent signings were limited to two older vets on one year contracts each for fill-in roles: SS Willie Lopez and RF D'Angelo Caballero . Lopez has a reputation as a great fielder with some power, and should provide a defensive upgrade over Omar Pena, who declined an option and departed as a free agent.
We also acquired a major league talent through the Rule 5 Draft, and hope he will be a key addition to the team in Charley Carasone.
The first player of the 'young crop' that we hope will turn around the team will make his ML debut when he pitches the opening day game: International free agent signing Jose Lee.
Other players in the farm system who plan to be in the bigs by Season 18:
"We also plan to sign another international prospect this year that hopefully could be in the bigs by year 18 or 19, and during the offseason or next offseason change the budget to make a big free agent signing to add another stud hitter to the major league club'.
There is no doubt that the Lightning's rebuilding efforts are well laid out and they have the prospect depth to show that their plans have already been set into motion. There is a bright future for the Lightning, and the league's first World Series champion promises that Lightning WILL strike again.